How National Assembly clerk, Omolori’s tenure is prolonged | Dailytrust

How National Assembly clerk, Omolori’s tenure is prolonged

  Senate President Ahmed Lawan and   House of Reps Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila
Senate President Ahmed Lawan and House of Reps Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila

The row over the retirement age of public servants in the National Assembly seems no way near the end as the leadership meetings on the issue are yet to reach a resolution, as evidenced by wrangling over the prolonged tenure of the current Clerk, Mohammed Sani-Omolori.

The implementation of a revised conditions of service carried out in the twilight of the 8th National Assembly had raised dust among staff members.

The 8th National Assembly had, through a resolution, amended the rule, raising the retirement period for staff from 35 to 40 years in service while the retirement age was upgraded from 60 to 65 years.

Those backing the change said halting implementation of the new conditions would trigger industrial disharmony.

A faction, “Staff of the National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly”, said the peace being enjoyed by the National Assembly management since inception should be allowed to continue.

“Any move against the amendment would throw the bureaucracy of the National Assembly and state assemblies into confusion as the new order has been ratified by some states,” Salisu Funtua, the national president of the body, said in a letter to the leadership.

However, those with opposing views alleged that the amendment was a plot to keep the current Clerk to the National Assembly, Mohammed Sani-Omolori, in office for another four or five years, despite attaining the retirement age.

They argued that the public service rule which puts the retirement age at 60 years of age or 35 years in service, had been applied on some of Omolori’s contemporaries.

The amendment was approved without public hearing and other procedural stages of passing a bill contrary to the rules of the senate and the House, some staff who opposed the new rule said.

“The most shocking revelation is that the amended bill is now being implemented through the backdoor without the imprimatur of Mr. President in gross violation of the extant laws of the country,” a senior staffer of the assembly said.

However, in his reaction, the Director of Information, National Assembly, Rawlings Emmanuel, said the amendment of the service rule is not a bill and doesn’t need a presidential assent.

How politicians benefit from the system

A top officer at the National Assembly, who pleaded not to be named, said some political leaders had contributed in bastardizing the administrative machinery of the National Assembly.

He said some were using their influence to recruit political aides whose services were not required based on institutional needs.

He added that most of them did not have the required skills to contribute meaningfully which gave rise to many problems being faced by the National Assembly in terms of delivery.

The source said, “Can you recall the experience we had in the 8th Assembly about the number of bills returned by the president because of obvious errors?

“It was because of the incompetence of most of the people that came into the system in 2014.

“A lot of them have gone or retired.

“They have not gone through the institutional transformation that would have made them useful to the system.

“Most of them came in from the private sector.

“Some of them were political aides who were compensated not based on our institutional needs, but based on political patronage.

“What we have today is a huge gap in the system.

“The real picture is that the system is trying to find itself,” he said.

Twists and turns

The row over Omolori’s tenure has not only divided staff members but has also put the  National Assembly leadership and the National Assembly Service Commission (NASC) on a collision course.

The NASC wants the new conditions of service reversed by asking those due for retirement, including the clerk and about 150 senior directors of the National Assembly to proceed on retirement.

The committee the NASC had set up to review the amendments recommended the rescission of the amendment and had forwarded its position to the presiding officers of both chambers.

But the House of Representatives said it would not reverse the resolutions of the 8th Assembly which amended the rule.

In a memo presented to both the Senate President,  Ahmad Lawan and House of Representatives Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, the NASC chairman, Ahmed Kadi Amshi,  said the amendment was not appropriate.

“At the time the resolution was passed by the 8th National Assembly, the National Assembly Service Commission was not reconstituted, but the management of NASC and NASS went ahead to gazette the resolution on May 28, 2019 and printed the new conditions of service for National Assembly service of which only a constituted NASC has the power to do so.

“This is clearly stated in Section 19 (1) of the NASC Act, 2014.

“Furthermore, both the management of NASC and NASS went ahead to implement only the retirement age aspect of the conditions of service, leaving all other recommendations unattended to,” the memo said.

However, the House of Representatives, in a June 4, 2020 letter to the NASC chairman, said it had resolved not to rescind the 8th Assembly’s resolution on the retirement age of staff members.

The letter, with reference number: NASS/HR/LEG/14/3/30 and entitled: “Re: Forwarding of memorandum on the review of condition of service for the National Assembly Service,” was signed by the Clerk, House of Representatives, Mr. Patrick A. Giwa.

It  reads: “I write to convey to you that the leadership of the House has received and deliberated on the above subject as contained in your letter dated June 1, 2020 vide NASC/CHO/PS/11/11/94 and resolved as follows:

“The entire leadership of the House of Representatives cannot rescind the 8th Assembly’s resolution on the retirement age of 8th Assembly staff and;

“Therefore, the House of Representatives maintains the position of the 8th Assembly as contained in the conditions of service jointly passed by that Assembly.”

Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila had earlier dismissed a June 3, 2020 letter which conveyed the green chamber’s endorsement of the revised conditions of service to the NASC chairman.

The speaker, in a statement by his media aide, Lanre Lasisi, said he had not directed issuance of such letter, purportedly written by his Chief of Staff, Sunusi Garba Rikiji.

Sources said the leadership of the two chambers, worried over the retirement age row, had been holding meetings with NASC to resolve the matter, but they are yet to find a common ground.

“The issue is far from being resolved, but talks are ongoing between the leadership and the management,” a top official of the National Assembly management, who preferred not to be named, said.

“It is either they are doing it (upward review of the retirement age) or not,” he said.

“If the procedure of doing it has been adopted by the 8th Assembly, they know better.

“They know better because they cannot reverse the activities of the 8th Assembly.

“If you go to our rules, there is no rule that says that whatever happens in the past assemblies such as bills that have gone to the president for assent can be re-introduced and re-gazetted by the next assembly.

“They are the authorities, they have the right to look at recommendations being forwarded to them to see if the recommendations are okay or not which is strictly their prerogative,” he added.

Another official, meanwhile, said truncating the move to transform the administrative machinery of the National Assembly will have a negative effect on the whole system.

While the National Assembly leadership and management are yet to reach a resolution on Omolori’s tenure, the race for the next clerk has heightened.

Sources said shopping for a new clerk among the most senior management staff has begun.

They added that 9th Assembly has a hard choice to make as regards to the matter as any decision taken will please some and offend others.

Who is Sani-Omolori?

Mohammed Sani-Omolori, who joined the National Assembly service in 1985, is due for retirement.

But he remains in service following the alteration of the retirement age and length of service.

He was born into the family of a former Ohinoyi of Ebiraland in Okene, Kogi State, on June 7, 1961.

His early education started at the Native Authority (Central) Primary School, Okene between 1966 and 1971 before he proceeded to Government Secondary School, (now Abdul Azeez Attah Memorial College), Okene from 1972 to 1976.

Thereafter, Sani-Omolori briefly served as a temporary employee of the Local Schools Management Board, Okene in 1976 before he proceeded to the Katsina College of Arts, Science and Technology (KCAST), Zaria where he obtained an Advanced Level Certificate from 1977 to 1979.

He was admitted into the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria in 1979 for a Law degree and graduated with LL.B (Hons) in 1982, and was called to the Nigerian Bar in 1983 as a solicitor and advocate of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

In 1983, Omolori participated in the National Youth Service Corps Scheme (NYSC).

His first place of primary assignment was the Sokoto State House of Assembly before he transferred his service to the headquarters of the 7th Mechanized Infantry Brigade of the Nigerian Army, Sokoto as a legal adviser.

Having completed his NYSC in 1984, Sani-Omolori had a stint of legal practice in the firm of Baba Amartey Chambers: Nasir Ajana and Company between 1984 and 1985.

He also served as a private secretary to his father who was the Ohinoyi of Ebiraland and the chairman of Ebira Traditional Council.

His public service career began in 1985 with his engagement as a legal officer with the Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited.

In 1990, he joined the services of the defunct National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) as a legal officer where he served for one year.

In 1991, he took up an appointment with the National Assembly office.

In the National Assembly, Sani-Omolori was the brain behind establishing and nurturing the legal department from its inception to its present status.

He became the Acting Director, Legal Services Department in 2002, a position he held until 2006.

In 2007, he was promoted to the substantive rank of director and worked in that capacity until February 4, 2010 when he became the Clerk, House of Representatives, a position he occupied till May 16, 2016 when he became the Clerk to the National Assembly.

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